By Kathy Witt
You can tell a lot about people by the way they treat their animals, and visitors to Georgetown, Kentucky, will find one of the most friendly and humane places around. Not only that, but a postcard-pretty downtown and more charm than you can shake a bridle at, too. Here, in the heart of the Bluegrass in Scott County, is a town that takes the stewardship of our 4-legged heroes so seriously, it created a horse haven for them.
Your first stop in this charming burg of 32,000 should be at its premier attraction, Old Friends Thoroughbred Retirement Farm, home to dozens and dozens of former Thoroughbred champs. Among its famous residents are Kentucky Derby and Preakness winners War Emblem and Silver Charm, who while away their twilight years amidst the farm’s gently rolling acreage with dignity and respect. A living history museum of horse racing, Old Friends offers visitors an up-close and personal touring experience – and the chance to meet such equine celebs as Popcorn Deelites, star of the 2003 Oscar-nominated movie, “Seabiscuit.”
Meet an elite group of thoroughbred legends during an appearance at the Hall of Champions at family-friendly Kentucky Horse Park. One of the world’s best equine competition facilities, it also offers a timeline tracing the history of the horse back to ancient times at the International Museum of the Horse. You can go interactive at the American Saddlebred Museum as you learn about “the horse America made,” then see equestrian art and memorabilia at the Wheeler Museum.
Another Georgetown attraction revs up the horsepower, but is definitely a breed apart. At Toyota Kentucky, America’s first and the world’s largest Toyota manufacturing facility, see how more than 2,000 cars are made daily on the free-admission tour. These include the Lexus ES 350 (the first Lexus model ever to be produced in the United States) and America’s best-selling car for nearly 15 years: the Camry. Check out the first Camry ever made in the U.S. and hop aboard a guided tram tour for a zip around the plant.
Alive & Thriving Downtown
Established in 1786, Georgetown is a place that honors its history and embraces its future.
“Our downtown is an attraction in itself,” said Lori Saunders, executive director of Georgetown/Scott County Tourism. “Everyone is always so surprised at how perfectly preserved it is and how beautiful. Our downtown restaurants are now a culinary destination, and our antiques shops have been nationally recognized.”
Step into the Victorian era on a downtown walking tour, home to 200 buildings listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Remain in the era with a visit to Ward Hall, a National Landmark built circa 1853-1857, whose tour guides will share the stories and politics of the family that lived in what is considered the largest Greek Revival-style house in Kentucky.
Dining & Shopping Delights
Downtown offers an array of dining options, with additional eclectic restaurants opening soon.
Local Feed, a Kentucky Proud restaurant in a former 1890s ice house, lives up to its name with a menu showcasing scratch-made, farm-to-table delicacies. Award-winning Rodney’s on Broadway features culinary masterpieces like Woodford Reserve Shrimp and Scallops from chef-owner Rodney Jones, while Fava’s has been serving up satisfying home-cooked meals for more than a century.
Just outside of downtown, try the crave-worthy award-winning pizzas at Fat Kats or American favorites at Wilshire’s, located in the fully restored historic home of General John Payne and his wife, Betsy.
Like craft beer? Head to Galvin’s with its cozy pub-like feel or to Country Boy Brewing or the Irish pub, the Slainte Public House. All have that where-everybody-knows-your-name ambience. On a similar note, Bourbon 30 is a small family-operated artisanal distillery offering a unique craft bourbon experience from every barrel. Cheers!
Small-town shopping doesn’t get any better than here, either, with a selection of antiques spread among several shops, and locally-owned shops and boutiques filled with gifts and collectibles, pottery, apparel, artworks, jewelry and more.
Big Outdoor Fun
Kayak, canoe, float or fish on ruggedly beautiful Elkhorn Creek, one of Kentucky’s longest creeks. Stroll the free-admission Yuko-En on the Elkhorn, the official Kentucky-Japan Friendship Garden, featuring a four-season garden alive with native plants, waterfalls, stone gardens, a koi pond and more, plus the serene Mahon Tea House.
At Evans Orchard and Cider Mill, treat your taste buds to fresh-made apple cider donuts or fried apple pies washed down with house-made apple cider. Choose your spring plants at Bi-Water Farm and Greenhouse; pick up organic veggies, fruits, meats and eggs – even cornmeal – at Elmwood Stock Farm; and stop by Triple J Farm’s Farmhouse Kitchen for fresh produce, along with homemade breads, cinnamon rolls and other sweets.
Curiosity-seekers will detour off the beaten path for gems such as the Steven Hockensmith Fine Art Gallery, featuring art of the world-renowned equine photographer, and Royal Spring Park, today the site of a variety of events. This is also the very spot on which Georgetown was founded and, with the distilling activity of one very well-known Rev. Elijah Craig, the birthplace of bourbon, too.
Come experience the authentic charm of Georgetown, a historic and scenic treasure where horses are cared for as lovingly as the buildings are preserved, outdoor attractions are made for both big adventure and quiet moments, and photo ops are waiting around every corner. Plan your visit today at 502-863-2547 or www.georgetownky.com.